If you were around when James Fix published “The Complete Book of Running” in the 1970s, you probably got hooked on running. And you probably stayed with that sport as you aged.
The baby boomers who maintained a running regime for decades stayed with it to lose weight and blow off steam and nervous thoughts. They also thought running would pay off as they got older. But there weren’t any meaningful medical studies available to prove running kept their bodies from deteriorating at the normal aging rate.
But a new Ball State University study published in the August issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology decided to find out if all those years of running made a difference in the muscles of people who are now in their 70s. The director of Ball State’s Human Performance Lab, Scott Trappe, brought people who maintained some sort of aerobic exercise over the last fifty years into the study. And he also asked people who didn’t exercise that much over the last fifty years to join. Trappe’s also asked a group of 25-year-olds to take part so he could compare the aerobic capacity and the cardiovascular system of each group. Scott used tissue samples to measure the levels of certain enzymes in the muscle that indicate muscle health.
The scientists who took part in the study thought muscles and the cardiovascular system decline with age no matter what a person did fifty years ago. Trappe and his associates thought they would see the hierarchical patterns that exist between the age groups in the tissue samples. In other words, younger people should have more robust muscles and more aerobic capacity. The lifelong exercisers should have weaker muscles and less aerobic capacity. And the older non-exercisers muscle strength should be weaker than the active older exercisers.
But Trappe’s study revealed different results. The older exercisers muscles mirrored the muscle of the young people in terms of the number of capillaries and enzymes in the muscle tissue. The muscles in the inactive old folks didn’t have the enzymes or the capillaries that active old folk’s muscles have. But the active older people didn’t have the same aerobic capacity as the 25-year-olds. But their capacity was 40 percent higher than the capacity of the inactive old folks.
Researchers discovered that active old folk’s cardiovascular health was equal to the cardiovascular health of people 30 years younger than they are.